From the producer: May 7, 2009

Since succulents top the list of recent viewer requests, this week Tom and I are thrilled to introduce you to Cindy Arredondo from Desert to Tropics. When her husband Jay turned his passionate hobby into a career, they created their online business to share their love of astounding plants with other gardeners. Since they also sell to local nurseries, you may already have a few that started under their hands.

Cindy wowed us with cold-hardy succulents for shade as well as sun, along with design ideas for what she calls “patioscaping” and “tablescaping.” She includes interior-happy succulents for your house or office, too.  On our website, we’ll have her extensive plant lists for each situation and how to care for them.

On tour, we visit landscape architect’s James David’s renovation of a lakeside cove.  The struggle many of us encounter is connecting various spots in our gardens for easy travel, practicality, and a unifying experience. This one has great ideas that translate into hands-on projects.

In my garden, my main destination right now is from one bed to another with pruners in hand. This is round one of spring pruning:  right now, it’s the asters, mums, silver germander, bulb foliage, rose deadheading, and anything out of control.  Any fall-blooming plant can be pruned now to fluff it out.

For those of you growing citrus plants, have you checked out the A&M Patio Citrus site?  Per its advice, I thinned the Satsuma orange.  It’s painful to prune off little oranges, but not only is it good for the current crop, it helps the plant for next year. Now is also a good time to apply some high nitrogen fertilizer.

Anticipating the rain that didn’t come, I sprinkled in Tithonia (Mexican sunflower) and cosmos seeds here and there.  I work frantically for a few hours on the weekend before the humidity sends me to air-conditioned chores. My Finnish genes seem to intensify as the years go by.

Before I go in, I simply must rejoice over one of my favorite penstemons, Penstemon cobaea, in the crape bed.  Well, okay, there are many I love, but this one works on my clay soil, along with the Gulf penstemon.

Penstemon cobaea

My other spring love, Byzantine gladiolus, hung on long enough to join it.

Byzantine gladiolus with Penstemon cobaea

Along with the larkspurs I seeded last fall.

Byzantine gladiolus with larkspur

Seeds are getting more expensive, but what else is such a kick for a couple of bucks?

Lavender larkspur

Well, maybe a fancy iced mocha latte on my birthday, but I’d rather have seeds, since when I collect these larkspurs’ dried pods, and with a little luck, I can keep this fun going for years. In the front yard, every year I get larkspurs from seeds our neighbor Tom gave us long ago from his parents’ garden. His dad is now gone, so they’re especially special.

A new treasured passalong is the walking iris in the crape bed, divided for me last year by friends Pat and Tony Wertz.

Walking iris

The cat cove roses are like new plants, too.

Buff Beauty

Buff Beauty rose

New Dawn

New Dawn rose

When I cut them to stubs, I figured it would be fall before any flowers, and a year before they hit the top of the arbor. Now it looks like they’ll cover the whole thing by fall.  These guys have always bloomed, but never with such enthusiasm, or with such lustrous foliage. No question, the best ingredient for roses is lots of sun.

The cat cove likes its renewed sunlight, too.  Cedric is to the left.

Cat cove in April Spanish lavender with winecup

By the way, I cut a few sprigs of lavender to wrap in a paper towel to fragrance the winter and wooly clothes in their plastic storage hanger, and maybe to fend off moths.

Here’s the big surprise of the week.  Our prickly pear in bloom!

Prickly pear cactus flower

Years ago, CTG’s director Ed Fuentes gave Tom and me a few pads from his. I put mine in a pot, where it never bloomed. At some point, one of its pads fell off and rooted in the ground nearby.  And bingo, this year that one bloomed.

Last year cactus bugs made a mess of the container one, so I’m thinking of cutting off its pads to install along the creek bank.  Then I’ll have a huge pot for a Meiwa kumquat!

I guess what I really like about gardening is turning any situation into something positive.  My favorite part is connecting to people who bring another sort of continuity to my garden and my life.

Until next week, Linda